In the final instalment of three New Year specials, I take a look back at the players that have appeared for Millwall Football Club in the calendar year of 2015. There have been plenty of stinkers – Stefan Maierhofer, I’m looking at you – but who are the top 5 to have pulled on the blue shirt this year?
Find out below…
5) Lee Gregory
Appearances in 2015: 35 (14) – goals: 15 (at time of writing)
The number nine has divided opinion amongst Lions fans more than any other player in recent memory, but for me, in a year that has been quite difficult in the most, Gregory deserves his spot in the top five.
Brought to The Den by Ian Holloway in a deal worth £250,000 from Halifax, Gregory spent the majority of last season up front on his own, completely isolated from the play. Since the inception of the Harris regime, the striker has begun to blossom, scoring ten goals this season already, with his crowning moment being a quadruple of strikes in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Southern Area Quarter Final tie with Plymouth Argyle, in which the Lions won 5-3.
An honest footballer, Gregory grafts for the good of the team and is regularly involved in the build-up to Millwall goals. For the fact that he has made a lot of appearances and scored the most goals this year alone, he deserves his place in the top five – no matter what others may choose to believe.
4) Steve Morison
Appearances: 25 (2) – goals: 7
The stand-in captain of the side makes number four on the list.
An ill-fated loan spell a couple of seasons ago meant that the news of Morison’s capture – mere days before the season began – was met with trepidation from some quarters, but for a large part of the season so far, the frontman’s form and attitude has been outstanding.
Even before the injury to Tony Craig against Bradford City on October 31st, a different Morison was noticeable – his willingness to work for the good of the team and to do the dirty work was clear for all to see. With regards to the goal tallies of the three strikers (Morison, O’Brien & Gregory), the Welshman currently sits bottom of the pile, but he has more than made up for that with some fantastic displays, as a senior member of the squad.
He has produced moments of magic in front of goal, however – his strikes v Doncaster at The Den and at Southend in the JPT were superb. The fact that the manager had no qualms over giving him the armband for the rest of the season speaks volumes.
3) Mark Beevers
Appearances: 33 (2) – goals: 4
The towering centre-half sneaks inside the top three!
Bought from Sheffield Wednesday, Beevers has slowly made his way up the ladder at the club and is now (in my opinion, anyway) the best defender that we have in our possession.
Goals have dried up for the Yorkshireman recently, but the beginning of the season saw the defender net four times – all away from home (Port Vale, Wigan Athletic, Peterborough United and Blackpool). Despite that, he still remains an automatic selection for Neil Harris and rarely puts in a bad performance (apart from the Gillingham game on December 19th – but we won’t talk about that, Mark!)
There was talk of Beevers leaving the club to continue his career up north at the back end of last season and over the summer, but thankfully, he has decided to stay and carry on playing for Millwall.
If we are to mount any sort of promotion challenge in 2016, then the foundations for it will need to consist of a solid defence, among other things. With Mark Beevers in the team, I reckon there’s a chance of doing just that.
2) Aiden O’Brien
Appearances: 31 (8) – goals: 11
Just failing to make the top spot is the rising Irish star, Aiden O’Brien.
At the beginning of last season, O’Brien was no more than a bit-part player, making substitute appearances here and there, but at the close of 2015, the Irishman stands tall as one of the most important members of the team – and perhaps the most valuable currently, too.
The appointment of Neil Harris in March saw the striker thrust into the first XI nearly every week, as he attempted to form a partnership with Lee Gregory. Eventually, that partnership begun to blossom – especially in the away game at Brentford – but this season, the arrival of Steve Morison has seen O’Brien play in more of a wide role.
Despite that, the Irishman has turned in a number of outstanding performances and has changed games for the better. He has scored some fantastic goals – namely his second and third goals at Crewe, which gave him his first senior hat-trick (both goals were voted into my Top 5 Goals of 2015 list!), as well as strikes at home to Swindon and Northampton (JPT) – too.
He has gone off the boil over the last month, but for a young player that has burst on to the scene in the way he has, perhaps that is to be expected. Although, with Palace supposedly sniffing around him, maybe he hasn’t produced his best recently to push them away – I wouldn’t want to go there either, Aiden…
1) Jordan Archer
Appearances: 24 (0) – clean sheets: 9
At number one, I have chosen the player that I feel has benefitted the team the most over the year of 2015 – Jordan Archer.
David Forde has been a superb servant to Millwall Football Club over many years, but sometimes, players reach their peak and once they do, there is only one way to go – down.
After a few mishaps during the year, Harris replaced Forde with Archer for the game against Scunthorpe United on August 22nd and – bar his sending off against Gillingham on December 19th – the former Tottenham Hotspur stopper has rarely looked back.
Archer has made the number 1 position his own with some outstanding displays between the sticks; his double save against Bury at The Den on November 28th was one of the best ever seen at the ground. His athleticism, youthfulness and commanding voice have kept the Lions in games, as well as won them, this season.
At the age of 22, the Scot is still in the very early stages of his career – goalkeepers can play into their 40’s, as has been seen many times before – so it makes you wonder just how far he can go.
But that’s for the future. For the here and now, Jordan Archer, you top my list as the best Millwall player of 2015. Long may it continue.